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Myths of matter management systems

Inspired by a piece on the website of Sugarcrest about practice management systems in law firms, I extrapolated to law department matter management systems (MMS)

Myth #1. MMS’s are about technology. No, the platform – software and servers – means less than the understanding that should come from analyzing its data. Technology is a means to an end.

Myth #2. MMS’s are only for litigators. No, all areas of the law department (and compliance, corporate secretary, IP, claims….) can track information and mine it.

Myth #3. Our law department’s needs for an MMS are unique. No, I would hazard to say that 90 percent of a plain vanilla system from a good vendor fits you. (And that the remaining 10% will cost huge amounts and exact much angst to possibly get done.)

Myth #4. The matter management system is for my secretaries and paralegals. No, but persuading lawyers to use it as an information repository, a budgeting aid, and a knowledge management tool makes Sisyphus’s task look like a cinch.

Myth #5. MMS’s transmute base data into golden wisdom. No, humans draw conclusions, even if the system draws graphs. The brain, not the silicon chip, works alchemy on the data and patterns.

Myth #6. MMS’s perk along on their own, once underway. No, they require constant care and feeding, to be sure people are complying, to check the accuracy of the data, to handle administrative tasks, to deal with vendors and corporate IT, to train, to improve reports, to fix glitches.

Myth #7. The MMS is only for the law department. No, clients and outside counsel can also make use of the information under suitable controls for confidentiality and attorney-client privilege.

Myth #8. The MMS is the Swiss knife that can do it all. No, you need IP systems, document management, specialized system for corporate secretary, just in the database area.

Myth #9. Why bother with an MMS when we have SAP (or any ERP)? Wrong thinking, since the accounting system is rigid, you can’t control it, and it will not track or report what you want.

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One response to “Myths of matter management systems”

  1. Good morning Rees,
    In the spirit of “responding and not just lurking”, I also read the Sugarcrest “article” on practice management systems and your comparison to matter management systems within a corporate law department. I completely agree with your assessment of how matter management systems should be deployed and used within a corporate law department but what bothers me the most is, by far, the majority of matter management users are not driving a significant level (anticipated) of value from the application. Performance measurement, the creation of benchmarks, using matter data strategically to help better manage law department operations all our great concepts but rarely used in “real life”. Electronic invoicing is another prime example of a great idea/solution that provides value to the law department but so much more can be done with the data. UTBMS was designed to provide a law department insight into outside counsel spending patterns over some period of time (6 months, a year, two years) not as a system to review outside counsel bills on a case-by-case basis. Also, matter management and electronic invoicing systems can provide a lot of value to the law firms but most see these tools as “necessary evils” where use is requested (mandated) by a client. Finally, even when meaningful data points are identified, very few law departments take the initiative to act on that information. As a lawyer and legal consultant, I know I need to do a better job on the “data” portion of these applications. Sure, we can implement systems properly, we can setup the law department in terms of correct processes and procedures but the ultimate value proposition needs to be fulfilled in terms of providing a tool for improved law department management and where the law department implements those new ideas for improved management and outside counsel cost reduction. That’s where I see we can provide the most value to clients. When done properly, the decision to implement or upgrade to a new matter management or electronic invoicing system becomes very easy to cost-justify because of the amount of value the client will get from the application.
    NY Legal Tech is a wonderful conference to see the “latest and greatest” in terms of legal technology, we just have to be sure that users of this technology understand that the technology component is just that, technology, and there is much more to a successful matter management/electronic invoicing project in terms of understanding the data and being willing and able to act upon it.